The following statement from Rhonda McEwen, ICCIT's previous Director, was issued on June 6, 2020, in the wake of George Floyd's murder and anti-black racism protests:
I hope that you are continuing to be well and taking care of yourselves and your families. I am writing today with a short message but one that is important. As we work with our students and colleagues during COVID-19 we have been mindful of the pressure that we all bear as we continue with the educational mission in a pandemic. I am grateful for all that you are doing and will do as we move into the next phase.
The most recent resistance within the Black community, and supported by non-Black allies, has added further pressure. Anti-Black racism is not an issue unique to the United States and the pain reverberates here in Toronto, in Canada, and around the world because systemic anti-Black racism is a part of our lives as well.
There is a refrain echoing in many channels at the moment and I place it within our place of work as well – your Black students, colleagues and friends are not OK. For our Black ICCIT faculty, instructors, and staff I recognize that this is heavy, that you may have friends and family in danger, and that you are sometimes unable or unwilling to break from newsfeeds that are heart-breaking. I see that you are carrying on professionally in a time where you are close to tears between your Zoom sessions. I understand.
I know that I have the support of all of you at ICCIT and I can answer the question for myself when I say, while I have my moments and I have dropped one or two balls (small ones!), I am very well supported and I am able to give support to many others. So overall, I’m coping well with this additional emotional strain. Still, a vast majority of people are not. I leave this with you in recognition that there may be something(s) that you can do if you pay closer attention. If you are getting requests for extensions, I ask that you consider giving them even if it is not clear why it is being requested. If you can check in on your colleagues and friends, please do. At ICCIT we have made humanity a guiding principle and so we keep this in focus.
The following equity statement was included in faculty member Negin Dahya's graduate syllabus:
Acknowledgment of Traditional Land
We would like to acknowledge this sacred land on which the University of Toronto operates. It has been a site of human activity for 15,000 years. This land is the territory of the Huron-Wendat and Petun First Nations, the Seneca, and most recently, the Mississaugas of the Credit River. The territory was the subject of the Dish with One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement between the Iroquois Confederacy and Confederacy of the Ojibwe and allied nations to peaceably share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes. Today, the meeting place of Toronto is still the home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work in the community, on this territory.
From Indigenous Student Services, University of Toronto
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Classrooms are inherently political spaces with various and intersectional dynamics of power and privilege at play. All students will be expected to show respect for one another and for the Professor and TA. There will be a zero-tolerance policy for language or behavior that is discriminatory or oppressive in nature.
Here are some examples of what respectful participation in this class might include:
- Think before you speak
- Consider what language you are using to discuss sensitive issues, and in relation to the range of visible and invisible identities present in the classroom;
- Recognize your own position
- Be aware about your own positions of privilege and oppression and engage accordingly; own your voice and position in ways that are healthy and open;
- Speak up or step back
- If you are someone who is always/often speaking up, take a step back to create space for others; if you rarely speak, try to push yourself to share your thoughts in either small groups or the larger group;
- People really underestimate the value of active listening; listen to your peers and instructors, take notes, take care, and think about what is being said;
- Engage in constructive feedback and inquiry
- While it is easy to fall to the side of being critical in academic work and especially in graduate school, it is much more productive to identify strengths in the readings, subjects, or ideas (of peers or in research or theory) and work to build on those ideas, even if in sometimes divergent or juxtaposing directions;
- Ask good questions
- Be thoughtful and ask good questions about the work, subject matter at hand, and its relevance;
- If you don’t understand a perspective, ask, think, and write about it. Avoid getting defensive or dismissive about views you don’t understand or don’t initially agree with.